GRADUATE COURSES:
SPRING 1997


(All Philosophy classes will be held in the Department Conference Room, Main Building, Room 503M, except G83.2222 Clinical Ethics and G83.2297 Research Seminar on Mind and Language.)

(G83.1220) 20th Century Analytic Philosophy: Mental Causation
Professor Gibbons
W 06:10 - 08:10

One of the most difficult problems in the philosophy of mind is the problem of mental causation. We typically think that our beliefs, desires, and decisions cause much of our behavior. These mental events seem to have an effect on the physical world, at the very least, the motion of our bodies. At the same time, it is tempting to suppose that this same behavior is caused by physical states of the brain and the nervous system. Now it may be that mental events just are events in the brain, so both of these claims can be true. But the problem of mental causation reappears at the level of types. When one event causes another, it does so in virtue of some of its properties, the "causally relevant" properties, but not in virtue of others. The problem of mental causation as it is discussed today is the question of whether mental properties are causally relevant. When an event causes some behavior, does it do so in virtue of its mental properties, or in virtue of its physical properties, or are mental properties just the same as physical properties? This seminar will focus primarily on this question.


(G83.2222) Clinical Ethics
Professor Ruddick and Medical School clinicians
W 05:00 - 07:00
NYU School of Medicine, 1st Ave. & 30th St.

The course surveys specific ethical issues that arise in clinical specialties and medical training, including oncology, psychiatry, pediatrics, genetic counseling, nursing, emergency medicine, and forensic medicine.

Meetings will begin with cases and topics presented by a clinician, followed by commentary by one or more students who will have previously met with the clinician at the hospital and read more widely on the topics than other members of the class. These class presentations will be written up and expanded in the light of class discussion and further reflection and reading.

Open to graduate philosophy students and medical students. A few other graduate and upper level undergraduate students with prior work in medical ethics may enroll with the permission of the instructor.


(G83.2284-001) Contemporary Ethical Theory
Professor Deckel
Th 6:10-8:10

This course will examine moral psychological aspects of issues in ethics and the philosophy of mind, including:

  1. Freedom/autonomy. We will look critically at recent attempts to account for these notions in moral psychological terms (for example Harry FrankfurtUs account of freedom of the will in terms of "hierarchical" desires). We will also examine the moral psychological foundations of Kantian accounts of autonomy.
  2. Reasons for action. To what extent are an agentUs reasons constrained or determined by elements of her psychology, e.g. her motives or what Williams has called her "subjective motivational set"? Are there any "external" reasons for action, i.e. can an agent have a reason to do something even if she currently has no motives which recommend her doing it?
  3. Normativity and intentionality. Davidson and others have long emphasized the importance of normative concepts (e.g. rationality, normatively understood) in the identification and ascription of mental states. Where exactly does normativity come in? Is there a sense in which intentional states are themselves normative?

Other topics may be discussed depending on time constraints and student interests. Students will be expected to write a term paper of approximately 15-20 pages. Advanced undergraduates may be admitted with the permission of the instructor.


(G83.2285-001) Ethics: Selected Topics
Professor Unger
W 04:10 - 06:10

The course will be organized around a few topics in applied ethics, most notably our behavior toward Third World youngsters in vital need as contrasted with our elective abortion behavior. However, our intensive study of these issues will force an involvement with the most abstract aspects of moral philosophy, including even a scrutiny of the ways in which philosophers usually investigate the more concrete questions. The course will begin by focusing on my latest book, LIVING HIGH AND LETTING DIE, Oxford U.P. 1996. It will also cover some very recent writing on the subject by other authors, such as Richard Rorty, and some of the many very recent reviews of the book, by philosophers such as David Lewis.

Bridged by some largely factual pieces on population control and fertility regulation, including Amartya SenUs "Population: Delusion and Reality," the course will then move to discuss recent writings on those subjects, with a special focus on induced abortion behavior. On abortion, the authors discussed will include Judith Thomson, Michael Tooley, and Peter Singer, as well as Prof. UngerUs own very recent typescripts on the topic. Finally, we will discuss what reasons there might be for according a human infant a higher moral status than a pig, which has a far more powerful mind.

Though these organizing topics are often emotionally charged, students must produce tightly argued work. Toward that end, students will write several drafts of each of their two short papers. There will be no examinations; a studentUs grades will be determined primarily by her performance on these papers and, secondarily, by the quality of her seminar-room participation.


(G83.2294) Philosophy Of Mind Seminar
Professors
Stephen Schiffer and Christopher Peacocke
M 04:10 - 06:10

Concepts

Philosophical issues about concepts are central to many areas of philosophy, but the nature of concepts and the goals of a philosophical theory of concepts need clarification. We aim to distinguish and to discuss the various issues to which the term of art TconceptU has become attached. We plan to go on to address the following questions:

  1. Is there any need for substantive philosophical theories of concepts in any of the current senses of 'concept'? If so, what form should such theories take? If there is no such need, can we still give some positive account of our apparent talk about concepts?
  2. What is the relation between concepts and the ascription of propositional attitudes?
  3. Are conceptual role theories of the identity of concepts adequate?
  4. How should we conceive of the relation between a theory of concepts and a theory of reference and truth?
  5. What should be the relations between a theory of concepts and a theory of how contents containing those concepts can come to be known Can a theory of concepts lead to a theory of justification of beliefs?
  6. What is the relation between a theory of concepts and a theory of linguistic understanding?

We plan both to discuss critically some of the existing responses to these questions, and to put forward some new ones. Much of the discussion will take off from the various proposals developed in Jerry FodorUs 1996 John Locke Lectures and Peacocke's book A Study of Concepts. More detailed reading lists for each week will be circulated in advance of each weekUs meeting.


(G83.2297) Research Seminar On Language And Mind
Professors Ned Block and Thomas Nagel
M 06:30 - 07:30 and T 04:00 - 07:00

Enrollment requires permission of the instructors. Requests to enroll should be submitted in writing to Professor Block, with an indication of your philosophical background.

The course is a research seminar dealing with current work in Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language, and Cognitive Science. The purpose is to expose graduate students to the ongoing work of leading contributors to these fields, by reading and discussing with them their current research. The level will therefore be more advanced than that of most graduate seminars. About half the sessions will involve discussion with visitors from other universities. The other half will feature current research of N.Y.U. faculty, including the instructors. Each week, written material will be discussed which has been made available by the author and distributed a week in advance -- including both published and unpublished material. The author will participate in the three-hour Tuesday session. The additional one-hour session on Monday will be exclusively for students, who will meet with one of the instructors.

Since the readings will depend on what the visitors submit, they cannot be specified in advance. However, this term the seminar will focus on the currently active topic of Consciousness. The following outside visitors have agreed to appear:

Students will be required to write several short comments on the readings during the term, plus a twenty-page paper to be submitted at the end of the term. Grades will be based on these two components.

The readings will be placed on the web page for this course as they become available.


(G83.3301) Philosophical Research
Staff
(Hours to be arranged.)



Other
Courses
Philosophy
Department

GSAS

NYU